Architectural Knit

As an exclusive fashion atelier, the all-new Seams Pret and Couture in Mumbai, designed by architects Jasem Pirani and Huzefa Rangwala of MuseLab, is not just a haven for personalized pret and couture lines but also a design gem that speaks of a synergy between fashion and architecture.

Text: Carol Ferrao; Photographs: Sameer Tawde, courtesy MuseLab

Architects Huzefa Rangwala and Jasem Pirani

Some weave magic with looms and textiles, while others weave intrigue through space, lights and composition. And when the two meet, you witness a synergy that captivates you with its design ingenuity. The new studio space Seams Pret and Couture, designed by MuseLab for a fashion atelier run by husband and wife duo, Mubaraka and Yunus Rajkotwala, is the result of one such meeting of minds. Principal architects Jasem Pirani and Huzefa Rangwala had already dabbled in retail projects before — a bespoke boutique at Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar and a flagship store for a famed designer at the city’s art district Kala Ghoda. While both these stores open into busy streets of the Maximum City, the Seams store is located away from the public eye in a quaint suburban industrial estate.

The owners of Seams also happen to be MuseLab’s first (“and most favourite”) clients with whom they have had an association since 2012. “The creative husband-wife duo, who already run a more than a decade-old bespoke furnishings business, wanted to dedicate a space to their four-year-old fashion studio. Having worked with us before, they approached us to conceptualize a space that would become a creative incubator for this fledgling brand,” share the principal architects who knew that the design had to communicate the brand identity effortlessly.

Seams is located in a suburban industrial estate alongside the client’s other venture, Sarah, a furnishing store. The facade, therefore, clubs the two entrances with a scalloped pattern in mild steel and a painted cement sheet layer. Some of the scallops are
accented by custom-made planters.

Established in 2014, Seams Pret and Couture, prides itself in creating exclusive and personalized Western and Indo-Western attire for women. Why ‘Seams’? Because it is a stitch that keeps two pieces of fabric together and it is just the inspiration for a brand that shares a special bond with their artisans and together creates the perfect garment for their clients.

At the previously defunct site, translating this vision demanded some major overhaul. The existing loft and a washroom by the entrance were eyesores that prompted immediate intervention. “We went about gutting down the entire space, stripping it to the bare walls,” explain Jasem and Huzefa. Now the double-height space, with an almost shoebox-like appearance, had to accommodate three critical functions — a display area and trial room, a studio space for the designer and her assistants and a store room, in the ratio of 2:1:1. The display area had to double as a gathering space in the evening for after-hour get togethers. “Since the new space was adjacent to the existing furnishing studio, we had to create a unique singular facade for both the adjoining units,” add the architects.

Visually the store appears as a unified whole but it holds several distinct functions. There is a trial room to the right, a display on the left and across, a discussion table and bench that cascade from the studio space to the upper level, ending up as a minimalist desk in the designer’s cabin.

Galleries are all about intrigue and drawing people in to explore more, but Seams also had to maintain an exclusive air about it given that access was to be by invitation only. Both these opposing themes are brought together in the most impressive manner by the ‘veiled’ brass-hued facade. A scalloped pattern constructed from mild steel sections is fused with a painted cement sheet layer to monolithically engulf both the existing furnishing store on the left and the new fashion studio on the right. Custom-made planters are placed on some of the scalloped slots which add contrast to the refined industrial palette. What’s not visible in this facade design is how cleverly it hides services within the framework. “The rear end of the site opened into a double-loaded corridor, and therefore the only available space for the air conditioning outdoor units was in the front. Hence, we had to account for this and an existing BEST meter unit while designing the facade.”

Inside the 900-square-foot studio, the shoebox-like area proved to be an advantage, giving MuseLab the opportunity to nail the brief and create an almost uninterrupted gallery space. Three words succinctly describe the studio: delicate — owing to the palette of dusky pink-hued walls; feminine — given the interplay between the pastels and the brass inlays; and strong, which can be attributed to the effect of the silver grey-hued terrazzo floor and cascading table on the overall design scheme.

Customized details can be found everywhere in the studio including the brass display fittings that are mounted on the wall, floor and ceiling in an asymmetrical fashion. It has built-in LED strip lights which gently highlight the couture line on display.

The clever demarcation of space ensures a sense of continuity in the way the layout flows from one function into another. As you enter, there is the jewel-box-inspired trial room to the right; on the left, a display in brass-like fittings and across it a discussion table and bench that cascades from the studio space to the upper level, ending up as a minimalist desk in the designer’s cabin. A powder room and a pantry are also provided at this level. At the back end is a secondary exit that opens on to a double-loaded corridor and leads to the store room below.

The arcade of asymmetrical arches exhibits the atelier’s latest collection on a brass-finished hanging system that is floor-and-wall-mounted as well as suspended from the ceiling. “The partitions are a reference to the beams in the ceiling which are hidden with the gradual shallow vault-like profile,” explain the architects. The fitting room sits in one corner of the space, wrapped in emerald green velvet fabric and a brass finished framework. Set aglow by a customized light fixture, the contrast between the firm terrazzo floor and the softness of the embroidered upholstery and custom-made dull gold light fittings accentuates the unique experience.

Inspired by a jewel box, the fitting room (in velvet) is celebration of textiles and architecture.

The designer’s cabin, where the cascading terrazzo table ends, is a minimalistic, glass-cased set up from where the client enjoys an uninterrupted view of the entire studio. Since the work area would tend to get cluttered with fabric swatches during design deliberations, the client wanted a clutter-free space with only the bare minimum furniture.

Just like the couture collection designed at Seams, the studio is a celebration of bespoke design elements. Almost every aspect has been created specifically for the studio and weaves the brand identity in to the architecture of the space. This juxtaposition of the two is exemplary, creating a hub that celebrates design in its entirety.

A linear but distinctly earmarked space in a gallery-inspired format which visually connects the display level with the studio at the far end of the store.

Floor: Terrazzo
Walls: Paint
Ceiling: Gypsum board and paint
Facade: MS Sections, brass PU and bison board
Display Units: MS sections and brass PU
Partitions: Extra clear glass and ply
Furniture: Ply and terrazzo
Lighting: Brass

Project: Back to the Arcade
Client: Mubaraka and Yunus Rajkotwala
Location: Apollo Industrial Estate, Andheri, Mumbai
Area: 900 sq ft
Principal architects: Jasem Pirani and Huzefa Rangwala
Design team: Namrata Tidke
Consultants/contractors: Shree Interiors, Ram Bachan Yadav, Ranjendraji, Bharat Floorings & Tiles, and Mass Interiors